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Full text of "A search in secret Egypt"

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH!                 133
liberty of glancing at his book: it was a cheap, paper-covered copy of the Quran, The boy's clothes were dirty and torn, for his work was poorly paid; yet his face was a picture of happiness. I did not need to give him the greeting: "Upon you be peace!" He had found peace already.
A third evening I varied my habitual menu by dining in a restaurant off the Sharia Muhammed Ali -which Europeans never patronized. It was in the heart of the old quarter and therefore kept its old customs well. I came to know and respect its red-tarbushed proprietor, who possessed a fine character and an innate politeness which sprang, not from his pocket, but his heart. The white-robed waiter had barely laid my dishes upon the table when he suddenly withdrew to a corner and took hold of something which leant against the wall. He treated it with such tenderness that one might have thought it to be his most treasured possession. It turned out to be nothing more than a faded straw mat, which he unrolled and spread upon the floor, laying its end in an easterly direction towards Mecca; which accomplished, he let himself sink down upon the hard, comfortless surface. For the next ten minutes he went through all the prostrations of the devout, reciting his prayers the while in low but clearly audible tones. His thoughts were now wrapped in Allah. There were seven or eight other patrons in the restaurant at the time, and only one more waiter. It was the hour when a substantial increase in patrons might momentarily be expected. Yet the old proprietor looked on approvingly, even nodded his head, so that the tassels of his tarbush swung to and fro in unison with his approval. He never left his little partitioned vantage-platform where he sat and surveyed the homely scene as any Sultan might have sat and surveyed the interior of his palace. He himself never waited at table nor directly accepted money. He was just an Oriental potentate who gave orders, but let others carry them out. As for the patrons, they accepted the present situation as good Muslims should, and were perfectly content to await the waiter's convenience. When at last the latter had emphatically, repeatedly and fervently assured himself—and incidentally has audience—that "There is no God but The One" and that "To God is the Victory" he returned to consciousness of his surroundings, remembered that after all he was only a waiter, rolled up his mat and replaced it in the corner. He looked round, mildly happy; caught my eye, smiled, and came up to